Internships have proven to be a game-changer, helping college students, better determine their career path and providing a chance to gain invaluable hands-on experience in their field of interest. In fact, one study found that more than 80 percent of graduates reported that an internship helped shape the direction of their careers. For students of color, research shows that internships are critical – a lifeline – to their professional futures.
Across the United States, students who have internships on their resumes are more likely to land full-time jobs after graduation. Yet, on average, only 6.6 percent of Black students and 7.9 percent of Latino students have participated in paid internships, compared to 74 percent of white students. At the same time, both groups are overrepresented among unpaid internships. Critics say those disparities also create challenges for prospective employers who desire to diversify their workforce.
Recognizing this equity gap in our nation’s workforce, the platform internXL (previously internX) has relaunched this month, providing organizations of all types, including Fortune 500 companies, access to pre-screened, diverse, entry-level talent. “If America is to remain competitive in the rising global digital economy, business and academia must collaborate to engage diverse talent,” said Black billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith, Founding Director and President of Fund II Foundation, and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, an internXL partner company.
Smith drew headlines in 2019 when he pledged a $34 million gift to Atlanta’s historically Black Morehouse College, paying off student balances for 400 graduates and their parents. He sees improving access to professional opportunities for students of color as a matter of strengthening national competitiveness and security. “We built internxl.org – to create pipelines and opportunities for minority students to work with many of the top tech companies in the world, providing experiences that many students never thought were accessible,” he said.
Currently, more than 220 companies and more than 17,000 pre-screened students are registered partners and participants on the internXL platform. It offers more than 1,300 courses as part of its tiered Learning Management System (LMS) within the platform, providing students with the opportunity to obtain certifications in a variety of subjects and skills, including the cloud, cybersecurity, Salesforce, and project management amongst others.
The LMS also offers mental health support, tips on how to dress for success, and even guidance on how to cook healthy meals — all aimed at preparing students for career-changing internships that can lead to long-term professional success.
The relaunch of the internXL platform also aligns with the objectives of Student Freedom Initiative, Smith’s nonprofit that provides science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with opportunities to receive income-contingent funding in lieu of traditional college loans that have long wreaked havoc on their financial futures. According to the American Association of University Women, more than 70 percent of Black students go into debt to pay for higher education, compared to 56 percent of white students. Additionally, the Brookings Institute finds that the Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation, with Black college graduates owing $7,400 more on average than their white peers.
To support its overarching mission, the internXL team will be visiting HBCU campuses throughout the 2022-23 academic year, providing students with free career-readiness training and resources to better prepare them for their unique internship experiences. The initiative will build off of internXL’s March 2022 investment of $15,000 to Alabama’s Tuskegee University, which provided professional headshots and attire to its students completing the internship and job application process.
“The impact of this initiative has been a game-changer for The Career Education and Leadership Development Center at Tuskegee University,” said its Director Walter P. Cooper, Sr. “The internXL team saw a need and immediately acted to bring forth transformational change — not only through their own professional resources — but also with financial support.”
internXL Program Director Ivana Jackson says internships help level the playing field, adding that the platform, “is uniquely positioned to bring precision, diversity, inclusion, and efficiency to the internship matching process for thousands of talented and skilled young adults across the country.”
Continued Jackson: “The objective of internXL is to provide value to both the employer and the student by providing highly qualified, pre-screened entry-level talent for the employer and providing ‘on-ramps’ to high-quality jobs that help students begin their professional careers.”
internXL and its partners will continue to work directly with HBCUs to ensure students realize their full potential in a competitive global economy.
To learn more, please visit internxl.org